One of my few regrets from last year was entirely missing out on contemporary art at the Palais de Tokyo. I neglected to see the spring show, which closes in early May, and left before the summer show opened, in late June. I was determined not to make the same mistake this year!
Lisa and Aya went to Le Havre for the weekend to visit friends who had been forced to leave Kampala on short notice a few months before, so my first cousin Jackie and I had the weekend to ourselves. Jackie hadn’t been exposed to much contemporary art, except the Salon de Montrouge a few days before and last year, but she was game so we set off after lunch, using a detailed trajectory proposed by my SNCF app. Wonderful though the app is — it even tells you which car to get into on the métro — neither it nor I had taken into account the new-normal Saturday gilets jaunes manifestation, which caused our second bus route to be interrupted. It was pouring rain so we huddled in a bus shelter while waiting for our Uber. Annoyingly, several taxis passed us while we waited, but we eventually got to the Palais de Tokyo without further incident.
None of the shows was insanely over the top (like, for example, Elsewhere and The Eternal Flame in 2014 and acquaalta in 2015) but I liked the ensemble overall, and was strongly moved by the first exhibit we saw, Amalgam by Theaster Gates. This is based on a horrifying true incident in New England history. Beginning in the 1860’s a mixed-race community formed and grew on several islands just off the coast of Maine, including the 42-acre Malaga Island. By around 1900, however, the Malaga residents came under attack, with newspaper headlines like, “Homeless Island of Beautiful Casco Bay – Its Shiftless Population of Half-breed Blacks and Whites and His Royal Highness, King McKenney” and “Queer Folk of the Maine Coast.” In 1905 the Malaga residents were named wards of the state of Maine, and in 1912 they were ordered to vacate the island. No alternative homes were provided or suggested. Very little material evidence is left of the former inhabitants of Malaga Island, but Gates imagines what they might have left behind, and how it must have felt to have your community disrespected and destroyed.
These photos just hint at the power of this exhibit:
After the show Jackie and I reprised a successful strategy from last year: I found a nearby Lebanese restaurant on The Fork, Karamna, that was offering a 30% discount for early bird diners like us. The food was terrific, and generous. We had a good meal that night, then a second good meal the following night from the copious leftovers.